Cold-weather Riding Workshops

Winter cycling is a blast!
Did you know that no matter how cold it gets you can still enjoy riding?

As a year-round cycling MSU professor of packaging (hat tip Diana Twede) likes to say “It’s just a matter of the correct packaging!”  Your body generates lots of heat while riding and you’re moving faster to your destination. MSU staff also keep the roads and paths very clear throughout the winter for everyone’s safety, although getting to campus is sometimes a little more challenging!

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Some budding winter cyclists getting a bike ready for the cold.

Come to the MSU Bikes Service Center for one or more of three classes to learn more about getting you and your bike ready for winter cycling so you can enjoy it as much as many others do every winter.  If none of these dates work for you then review our winter cycling tips here at your leisure.

If you’re already a cold-weather cycling veteran then PLEASE come with your setup and do some show ‘n tell to help inspire others!  The following workshops are FREE, short and full of good tips you can use this winter to have a better, safer more comfortable time.

Sessions are limited to 6 people attending with their bikes and requires at least 3 attendees, so RSVPs are requested. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS with your name if you want to be notified of possible changes/ cancellations due to lack of attendance or unforeseen circumstances.

Sorry, there is no visitor parking available nearby; click here for visitor parking information. They will ticket cars in the Bessey Parking lot til 6 pm.

We close the shop at 5 pm, so you’ll find the Closed sign up when you get here; the door should be unlocked so just come in or knock.

All ready for fun cold weather riding!
All ready for fun cold weather riding!

101 Session: (Mon. 12/04/17) — 1 space open!

This session will focus on the overall/ general tips on how to prep your clothing and your bike for comfy, enjoyable and safe riding.

102 Session: (Tues. 12/05/17)

This session will mostly be a repeat of the 101 class for those who couldn’t attend it and then if time allows we’ll dig into more depth and other finer considerations of cold-weather riding.

photo2103 Session: (Wed. 12/06/17)

This session will be a DIY studded tire and other DIY ways to modify your bike for added safety and comfort. Materials are NOT included and we’ll NOT have enough time to actually make your own studded tires but instead you’ll see a demonstration of how they’re made.

 

 

Any questions about the class? Call Tim Potter, instructor: (517) 432-3414 or email here.

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The Door Prize You Don’t Want!

WARNING to my campus biking friends!

While walking to get coffee across the river one lovely fall day in 2016 I observed 3 students quickly jumping out of the passenger side door (getting dropped off for class) into the bike lane on the Farm Ln. Bridge where the lane is extremely narrow and very little room to avoid being in the “door zone”.

This is a very real danger when riding next to parked or stopped vehicles on campus or anywhere. Stay very aware and out of the “door zone” to avoid the “door prize” you really, really don’t want.

“Dooring” has contributed to killing many people and seriously injured thousands more; if it happens on the driver’s side you can be thrown out into the travel lane.

Just because some bike lanes are painted up next to parking areas doesn’t mean it’s always the safest place to ride!  Use your best judgement and exercise your legal rights to ride where it’s safe in the road (NO! That’s not up against the curb or always the farthest right where you can physically ride contrary to popular opinion; see bullet #7 on this handy page summarizing Michigan Bicycling Laws courtesy of the League of Michigan Bicyclists).

Tired of a wet backside and feet?

Yep, it’s cold and wet out there and you like getting to class and home again quickly by bike but don’t enjoy the wet stripe up your backside and soaking feet all day long.  What to do?  Make your own?  There are plenty of ideas out there….

Examples of DIY bike fenders
Examples of DIY bike fenders (courtesy of The Plume Kickstarter – http://www.core77.com/posts/24896/another-minimalist-mudguard-the-plume-rolls-out-on-kickstarter-24896

These ideas can save you some $$ and give you some protection for the short term, but if you want to keep the junk off you and your bike for the long term come on into the Center and check out the various fenders we stock to fit just about any bike made starting at about $12.00.


Pros-Cons of Different Fenders – Different Bikes
If you’d like to read more about the pros-cons of different sorts of fenders and the strategy of having a ‘rain bike’ vs. using one bike rain or shine, read this excellent blog by Jan Heine of Bicycle Quarterly.

Personally, I’m a big fan of full-coverage fenders (whether plastic or metal) vs. the shorter “beaver tail” style rear and mini front fenders that don’t block that much of the water and other gunk coming off the roadway before during and after rain. The other critical issue mentioned in Jan’s article above of a “rain bike” vs. a nice-weather bike is the salt factor here in the Midwest. I have a ‘bad weather’ bike as I don’t want to subject my nicer bikes to road salts as it will quite rapidly destroy anything metal on a nicer bike.  I write that from experience of having gone thru several ‘bat weather’ bikes.  Even if you try keep the exterior clean by wiping or spraying it off the salt water that gets inside the frame and other spaces will rust and destroy anything metal.

Comparing Bike Lubes

How to oil your chain
This is the way you should apply your oil NOT with a spray can. Spray-on oils can get overspray all over your rear rim which causes brake failure and will collect gunk on other components making things wear out faster.

Wet roads are coming and when they’re covered with salt they are really harsh on chains and the rest of your bike.  One of the most common questions we get in the bike shop is what type of lube is best to use. The short answer is that dry lubes are for dry conditions and wet lubes are for wet conditions.

Dry lubricants go on wet but dry and leave lubricant where it’s needed.  The lubricant is resistant to dust or dirt and therefore works good in conditions when there is a lot of dust and dirt. Off-road riders will especially benefit from a dry lube when the ground is dry and dusty.  These types of lubes do not hold up to  wet conditions and will wash off with a rain.

We sell the following lubricants:

  • Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant – Teflon (PTFE) based, affordable and easy to use.
  • Finish Line Dry Bike Lube – Teflon based lube, all riding conditions.
  • ProLink Chain Lube – “Cleans and lubes as you ride!” Larry’s favorite!

Wet lubricants go on wet and stay wet after application. They are great for rainy and wet conditions and won’t wash away (as quickly) but attract dirt and debris and therefore should be avoided in dry, dusty conditions.

For the best results of any lubricant it is important to start with a clean chain. With any lube you should give it a minute to penetrate after application and then wipe off the excess so it doesn’t get all over the rim of your bike (which can cause your rear brakes to stop working), your pants, your carpeting, etc.  A dripping-wet chain also attracts more grime leading to a real nasty chain that wears out your whole drivetrain much faster than a clean one.

A lighter lube like the Tri-Flow Superior Lubricant, is excellent for keeping other components of your bike lubricated and help prevent them from seizing up.  We recommend a drop of lube on the pivots or hinges of your derailleurs (the things that shift your gears) and your brake pivot bolts (NOT your brake pads!) to keep them moving smoothly.  Salt water can and will get inside your brake and shift cables and cause them to get  sticky or completely seize from rust and ice, so a little chain lube inside the cable housing will help keep them sliding smoothly.

Finally, chain lubes are excellent for bringing a rusty or sticky lock mechanism back to life.  It’ll also help keep it from freezing up by chasing out water.

Grease:

A word about this type of lubricant: it’s the heaviest form of lube used on bikes and cars, etc.  It’s the consistency of toothpaste and is something we only use when overhauling ball bearings in hubs, bottom-brackets, headsets, when assembling bikes and installing seat posts inside the frame, or installing pedals, or other bolts (like those that attach things to your bike) to prevent them from rusting in place.  Grease is NOT used on your chain or places that are exposed to the elements.

Stop by the shop any time and we’ll look your bike over for no charge and give you more specific recommendations and estimates for getting it back in good riding shape!

Darwin Award tips for Cyclists

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So, you’re an aspiring Darwin Awardee and have a bike handy, what are your options to make history?  Here’s my top tips based on years of observation, listening to incredible stories of crashes and researching fatal crashes all over the country that will give you a pedal-up on your competing wanna-be awardees! *

Ride your bike while…

1. …staring at your phone and rarely look up, just go by “feel”.  You’ve been all over this campus so many times, you know every bump, bush, pothole;  who needs to actually see where they’re going?!

2. …wearing ear buds or better yet, full ear-covering headphones w/ music cranked up.  Your hearing is designed for awesome music not buses or trucks passing nearby.

3. … drinking coffee and going  no-handed for extra coolness just like the hip song “I can ride a bike with no handlebars!”.

4. … going no-handed in the bike lane just a few feet from moving motor vehicles!  What could possibly go wrong?!?!

BETTER YOUR ODDS!  Combine 2 or all 3 of the above for more  chances of a fatal crash!


Jump on your bike…

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Extra points for non-working front brakes!

5.  …without checking whether your brakes are working; who really needs brakes?!  Maybe just take them off altogether to save weight and use your feet to stop?!

6. …with your fork mounted backwards (just the way it came out of the box!).  Assembling a bike is easy-peasy like walking and chewing gum.

7. …without making sure someone hasn’t stolen your front wheel skewer that holds your wheel on the fork.

8. …with your handlebars flopping around completely loose.


Don't be a Ninja cyclist!
If you can see them that’s all that counts!  Right!?

Ride your bike….

9.  … on the sidewalk, in the bike lanes, wherever is the fastest (against traffic)!

10. …at night with no lights and dark clothing.

11.  … through red lights, stop signs, whatever.  Street laws are for cars/ trucks and wussies.

* This article is satire and not intended to be a serious guide to your demise.  Please DO NOT do these things if you would like to continue livingRead this article for REAL tips that will help save your life.

Three Easy & Cheap Things to Improve Your Ride

MSU Bikes has been “Helping people discover the joys of bicycling!” for over 10 years now on campus and I’ve been in the trenches here all those years.  If I were asked what three things would make your bike riding way more fun and easy here’s my list:

seats-too-low-example
Example of a couple students using their bikes as chairs. Photo courtesy CATA video.

1.  Raise your seat:
After 10 years of seeing thousands of bicyclists in our shop and out on the campus roads and paths I guestimate that over ¾ of those I see are riding with their seats anywhere from 2-6 inches too low.  I’m guessing many riders stopped riding when they started drivers’ education training and then brought their bikes from home that used to (maybe) fit them when they were 14 without making any changes to the fit.

Your bike is many things but is certainly not designed to be nor should it be sized to function as a chair.  It is a great healthy, non-motorized transportation tool and when adjusted right should feel wonderful to ride when seated.  If you’re feeling the need to stand often that’s another way your body is telling you to raise your seat.

Rule of thumb:
If you can reach the ground easily from the seat at a stop your seat is about 3-5 in. too low.  If you can touch the ground flat-footed, then raise your seat 4-6 inches or better yet get a larger bike.

position_586
Example of riding with a low seat.
Photo courtesy of Calvin’s Corner, Park Tool. Click image for detailed article re: bike fit.

When you do come to a stop simply get off the seat and stand over the frame.  If you consider that you’re spending 90%+ of your time in the seat pedaling and not stopped, it’s pretty logical that the seat to pedal distance should be the right distance for your legs to do their job efficiently.  Exception:  BMX/ urban stunt or down-hill bikes that are designed to have seats extremely low to be able to do tricks or other special types of riding; these bikes aren’t designed for traveling distances, so riders typically have to stand all the time if they’re trying to go more than a mile or so.

Caution:
Your seat is attached to your bike via the seat post; it’s only so long and can only be safely raised so high.  Most of them are marked with some lines that say “Minimum insertion” or something obscure; that means “Don’t raise it any higher than this point if you don’t want to damage your bike or your body.”  We do sell longer seat posts for pretty cheap that can help get your seat up high enough if your seat post happens to be too short.

 

2.  Inflate your Tires:

Ashley Tisdale rides her bicycle
Typical flat tire cruising. Photo courtesy of X17online.com

We’ve replaced thousands of punctured tubes at MSU Bikes, sometimes more than 30 a day during a busy fay.  Most customers want to know what caused their flat, so we’ve built up a wealth of knowledge based on all that CSI work that we charge for:  the main reason, by far?  Very soft tires are the root cause of punctured tubes or flats.  It’s called a “pinch flat”.  Basically, there’s not enough air in the tire to protect the tube from the road, so when you hit a bump, pothole, etc. the force of the impact causes two instant cuts in the tube by the edges of the rim.  Or the tube is so low of air that it starts slipping with the tire around the wheel until it cuts itself at the air valve.

Rule of Thumb:
If you simply inflate your tires every 2-3 weeks (certainly monthly) at one of many FREE public air stations around campus you’ll prevent this most common type of flat.   This map shows you where all those DIY air stations are located on campus.  Additionally, your bike will ride MUCH easier and with less effort when your tires are inflated to the proper pressure (written on the sidewall of every tire made; for mountain bike tires that give a range [typically 45- 60 psi], use the lower pressure during the winter months or riding on the trails for better traction).

Caution:
When inflating very low or flat tires go slowly and stop and inspect occasionally; some tires fit very loosely and can blow off the rim with a loud “boom!”.  Pressurized hoses like outside MSU Bikes or gas stations can inflate quickly so take it slow!

 

3.  Oil Your Chain:

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Rusty chain photo courtesy of Chicago Home Photos.

You know the sound, the screeching high-pitch squeaking of a rusty chain going down the road/ path. Those chains are crying for oil, your bike’s next-best friend to air in the tubes.  A small bottle of chain oil from a bike shop like MSU Bikes will last you most of your 4 yrs. at MSU and also come in very handy if your key won’t turn in your lock very well before you snap your key off by forcing it.  Your chain and other components will last longer if properly oiled and your ride will be much more enjoyable not to mention those around you who will thank you for not screeching!

 

Tri-flow oil - great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike
Tri-flow oil – great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike.

Rule of Thumb:
Oil your chain when you re-inflate your tires or right after riding in the rain.  A little bit goes a long way, so don’t overdo it or you’ll have a big mess everywhere.  Wipe down the chain after oiling it to keep it cleaner and from becoming a big ugly mess.

Caution:
We recommend NOT using a spray-can type of oil as you can get overspray on other parts of your bike (like your brakes) that will cause serious safety problems.

 

If you’re not sure about any of this just stop by MSU Bikes and one of our staff would be happy to answer any questions about fit, help you find the recommended air pressure, or how to oil your chain.

Happy roads!

 

 

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Road riding survival tips, no. 2: The Door Prize You DON’T Want!

Toronto - Door prize campaign
Poster from Toronto’s 2005 Campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of dooring.  Click graphic for more info. on the campaign.

When riding in the road you’ll sometimes find yourself riding past parked cars (thankfully most of the on-street car parking on campus is now gone, but now and then you’ll pass a delivery vehicle or someone dropping off a friend, etc), and sometimes you’ll feel you need to ride close to them to avoid getting in the way of or slowing down motor vehicle traffic.  Well, there’s a very dangerous area near parked cars called the “Door zone” which is where many bicyclists have been seriously hurt or killed, either by the door itself or by getting knocked off their bikes and sent flying out into the travel lane.

Watch this new video that captures such a moment by a taxi’s dash-cam; fortunately for this bicyclist the taxi was able to stop before causing the bicyclist serious injury:

London taxi driver captures the moment he almost ran over a cyclist
London taxi driver captures the moment he almost ran over a cyclist who was trying to avoid a car door (click to view on Facebook; courtesy The Telegraph)

The door zone extends out a lot further than you might think and, unfortunately, a lot further than most road agencies even realize, so sometimes bike lanes will even be marked way too close to parked cars encouraging riding in the “door zone”.

Avoidance instructional video
Parking lot demonstration of why we avoid the door zone on a bicycle

This short video (courtesy of the League of American Bicyclists) is an excellent instructional which clearly shows where you should ride.

So, next time you’re going to pass a parked vehicle be sure you get over far enough in advance (after shoulder-checking for a gap in traffic) to avoid the “Door prize you don’t want”.

Road riding survival tips, no. 1 – Mind the Gap!

So, perhaps you’re new to riding in the road and are now trying to stay off the sidewalks as much as possible like our campus ordinance and bike safety advocates want you to.  Great!  Well, there are a number of things to keep in mind, beware of, and not just cars, trucks and buses.

CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone
CAUTION! Pavement edge drop zone

Here’s one of them to the right.  This is a pretty common road-side hazard that takes many forms.  It’s basically the edge of the road and that difference in height between the edge and the curb gutter pan cement (or dirt if you’re out in the country) can cause you to lose control and crash you as you try to regain control should your front wheel drop off that edge.  The same condition occurs at the edge of a off-road path or sidewalk and is often covered by grass making the hazard hard to notice until it’s too late.  This is one of the most common crash scenarios that we hear about in our shop. I hope this will serve as a visual reminder why you shouldn’t ride up close to the curb when riding in the roads.  And when riding on pathways or sidewalks (if you must) keep that nasty edge in mind when/ if you have to go off the edge to get around something/ someone. Survival Hint:  Pop a little wheelie when getting back on the road/ path/ sidewalk to avoid crashing. Not far from the above photo is this pothole in the bike lane (2nd photo to the right); could also be a dead animal or spare tire, or whatever.

Beware the bike lane pothole
Mind the Gap!  And beware bike lane potholes!

You need to be able to miss stuff like this without swerving into traffic, so it’s best to ride far enough out into the travel lane (particularly when using these very narrow bike lanes or paved shoulders) so that you have options to get around such things without swerving at the last second into traffic & risk getting hit. See this web page courtesy of the League of Michigan Bicyclists that lists all of the Michigan Laws Pertaining to Bicyclists including the right to ride in other areas of the road way to stay safe and get to where you need to go like any other legal road user.

Tour de MSU Campus 2015 – Inaugural fun, slow, social ride – (archived article)

Lansing Bike Party
Lansing Bike Party members riding on one of the new bike lanes on campus on W. Circle Dr. by IM Circle/ Music Bldg., summer 2013.

Join your fellow MSU bicyclists on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, for a fun, slow, social ride around campus to see all the newer bike-friendly facilities that have been installed in the past year or two that everyone might not know about. We’ll start at the Spartan Statue (Kalamazoo and Chestnut) at noon and stop occasionally to look and talk about different features.  This will be a good opportunity to discuss challenging aspects and features we ride past that remain for MSU to progress towards a gold and someday a platinum Bike Friendly University award. No RSVP or registration required; just show up and ride! Here’s a map showing where we’ll be going around campus in case you want to jump in at some point along the route (sorry, just don’t have a good way to know WHEN we’re going to be at different points along the route).

Our updated MSU Bike Facilities map (JPEG version) is here (updated May 2015) which shows you all of the bike-friendly features of our campus.  (PDF version of the MSU Bike map)

Highlights of our Tour de MSU:
– Ride down recently updated/ improved S. MSU River Trail
– Brief stop by MSU Bikes Service Center
– (quick peek @ outdoor air station/ DIY repair station)
– Stop at corner of N. MSU River Trail @ Bogue St. to talk about the upcoming resurfacing project
– Cruise down the 1st marked separated bike/ped pathway behind Owen Hall (which served as a model for renovating other paths on campus)
– Brief stop @ new DIY bike repair station outside NW Akers Hall entance

Poster for MSU Bike Week events
Poster for MSU Bike Week events.  Click image for PDF version of the poster/ flyer for your workplace/ cafes, etc.

– Pass thru redesigned Shaw Ln./Bogue St.intersection
– Stop by new DIY bike repair station outside NW entrance to Snyders- Phillips Hall
– Visit the MSU Bike (Parking) Garage inside the Grand River Parking Ramp #6
– Brief discussion of W. Circle Dr. being the 1st “Complete Street” on campus
– Stop by new DIY bike repair station outside E. entrance to Yakeley Hall
– Pedal over to the Brody Complex via the MSU River Trail w/ brief stop by end of MSU River Tr. behind Jenison to talk about the status of completing the connection to the East end of the Lansing River Trail at Harrison Rd.
– Visit the new DIY bike repair station outside Emmons Hall in the Brody Complex
– Stop by upcoming new residential/ retail building project at corner of Kalamazoo and Harrison to talk about planned bike facilities
– Cruise down Harrison Rd. to the new under construction Multi-Modal Transportation Center near Trowbridge/ Harrison Rd. and discuss new bike facilities going in there.
– Back to campus, brief visit to new DIY bike repair station outside loading dock on north side of Holden Hall
– Stop by the MSU Bike Garage in the Trowbridge Parking Ramp #5 – Pedal back to the Spartan Statue via Red Cedar Rd.

Mid-MEAC's Valet Bike Parking crew
Friendly volunteers will watch your bike while you enjoy breakfast! (Mid-MEAC’s Valet Bike Parking crew [Brandon and Julie Powers in purple shirts] w/ Tim and Lauren Olson, formerly of MSU Sustainability)

Click here to learn about the 3rd Annual MSU Bike to Work/ Campus Breakfast on May 15th, 2015, which is also National Bike to Work Day.


May is Natl. Bike Month! May is National Bike Month!

It’s the official kickoff to the bicycling season.  If you’re looking for materials to help promote bicycling in your work place the League of American Bicyclists have got a bunch of stuff here.


Sparty on bike - Beaumont Tower

National Bike Challenge Starts May 1!

Calling all MSU bicyclists! It’s time to start warming up for the National Bike Challenge again. If you’ve never participated in the past, it’s very easy to join the fun.  You’ll be eligible for great prizes and get to see how your miles compare to others at MSU and around the country!  Be sure you’re registered under MSU as your school and then our miles will all be counted together! (We don’t have a Team MSU per se as there are limits on how big a team can be and other logistical headaches) Here’s MSU’s summary/ profile: https://nationalbikechallenge.org/school/6394

Thoughts on Bike Lights

Don't be a Ninja on a bike!
Don’t be a Ninja cyclist! Be SEEN and LIVE! Click image to learn more from the Tempe AZ Bicycle Action Group.

After reading the excellent “Bike Lights” article in Momentum’s Sept/Oct 2010 issue by Jonathon Reynolds which shares some research on when/where most bike accidents occur, I’d like to comment on the topic.

There’s a common misconception that you only need lights when it’s dark or getting dark.  Due to almost getting hit in the middle of the day by a driver, whom I believe simply didn’t see me in the dark shadows of a tree (some people’s eyes don’t adjust very quickly to extreme lighting changes), I have since strongly encouraged people to use flashing lights, front and rear, whenever they ride and not just when it’s getting dark.

There’s a good reason why many newer motor vehicles have lights that come on automatically whenever the engine is running; they’re called “Daytime Running Lights”.  While US car manufacturers have effectively lobbied against requiring them Canada and many European countries have enacted legislation requiring them on motor vehicles while at least one, Germany, requires front and rear lights be working at all times on bicycles.

If you need data to be convinced, take a look at this data on when the bulk of crashes occurred – DAYLIGHT HOURS!  Yes, the bulk of the fatal crashes have occurred later in the evening hours but it’s obvious your visibility isn’t just important when it’s dark out (courtesy of the Michigan Traffic Crash Facts tool).

Additionally, people should definitely stick with lights that have easily rechargeable batteries or USB rechargeable so that they’re more likely to use the lights all the time rather than trying to conserve batteries.  We stock many affordable lights at MSU Bikes and can special order just about any other light on the market.

Check out a 2017 WSJ article on the topic:
How Cyclists Can Stay Safe on the Road – Bright colors, bright lights and positioning on the road can help cyclists be more visible to drivers”

Finally, I see way too many cyclists riding around with lights that are hardly visible, or hanging off a backpack often pointing to the ground, apparently thinking “I’ve got a light, I’m safe”, but apparently have no idea how invisible they are.  I’m not sure if it’s the nature of rechargeable batteries or the modern LED lights, but it’s also best to have backup lights on the rear and front as I’ve had them look bright at the start of my commute home only to discover they died sometime during my ride.

So, be sure to check your lights often and recharge or replace those batteries to stay alive!  And make sure they’re aimed properly down the road so they’re actually visible to motorists.

almost-all-lights
Selection of strong widely available tail lights. Click for an excellent review of tail lights. We stock many affordable lights at MSU Bikes as does any good bike shop.

Sidewalk Bicycling vs. Bike lanes – the debate rages on

Joy ride on the newly updated MSU S. River path
Joy ride on the updated (summer 2014) MSU S. River Trail. Click pic for video.

There’s been considerable press in the State News and discussion especially in the fall of 2014 about bike safety and rules after some pretty serious accidents earlier in the semester and the subsequent launch of the MSU Police bike/ pedestrian safety campaign. Was even included in an Impact 89FM radio show with a MSU Police officer (Randy Holton) who coordinated the aforementioned campaign earlier this week (our part of the show starts at 18:45 (have to download the show and open w/ Windows Media Player or other player to see the time).

where-its-faster-safer-to-ride-screenshot
New video that quickly shows the advantages of riding in the road vs. sidewalk bicycling (Oct. 2017)
Campus-River-Tr-Before-2012
Chaos on the Campus River Trail, fall 2012.  Click for video.

All of this has caused me to reflect on where we’re at as a university in terms of improving bike and pedestrian safety; are we becoming a more ‘Bike Friendly University‘? MSU received a bronze BFU award in 2011, but what has changed over the past 4 years?

S. River Path near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012
Photo of the chaos during class change on the Campus River Trail near Erickson Kiva, summer 2012. Click pic to watch a video of bike/ped chaos from 2012 at Shaw and Farm Ln.

Well, on the visibly obvious front, we’re up from approx. 50% of our campus roads having bike lanes in 2010 to over 70% today which is phenomenal progress considering we had NO on-road bike lanes in the year 2000 when the university made the decision to adopt what has become known as a “Complete Streets” policy for campus roads (CS is now fully incorporated into our current Campus Master Plan).  MSU opened its first “complete street” at the end of the summer: W. Circle Dr.  After a massive construction project over last summer it’s now completely safe and designed for ALL legal road users!

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(Slideshow photos courtesy of Cycling Savvy – read more here.)

Casual observations along the corridors where the bike lane network is almost complete (Wilson Rd. for example) and wherever bike lanes exist, make it clear that if we build them bicyclists will start to use them.  We’ve also started adding “Sharrow” markings (aka ‘shared lane bicycle marking’) on roads where there’s not currently enough width for bike lanes (see this video that was produced fall of 2013 to inform the community of these new markings).

The most recent example of physical progress: there was a hugely successful safety improvement to our campus transportation system benefiting both pedestrians and bicyclists completed in late summer 2014.   A video I created, MSU Bicycling on Unmarked Sidewalk vs Newly Redesigned River Path” shows off the benefits and real life on the newly updated S. River path; you’ll quickly see the difference between riding on a crowded sidewalk vs. the new path.  With this segment of the S. river pathway completed only one more large segment is left needing the updating to this new, safer design; the path between Farm Ln. and Bogue St.  (More photos, including before and after construction, can be viewed here)

Bicycling in the road vs. sidewalk
Like riding slow and stopping all the time?  Sidewalks are for YOU!  Want to get somewhere faster than walking?  Ride in the road!  Click pic for video.

A companion video features the readily and quickly obvious benefits to riding in a bike lane on the road vs. riding on crowded, disorganized and chaotic sidewalks: Riding in a Bike Lane vs. Sidewalk Bicycling at MSU”.

Bear in mind that the benefits & advantages of riding in the road continue even on roads without bike lane markings.  Bicyclists also have a legal right to ride in the road and a legal responsibility to ride in the road (WITH the direction of traffic, AND obeying the same traffic rules as other legal road users) NOT on the sidewalks on campus.

Yes, we’ve still got plenty of work to do on campus (as this video of pedestrians and bikes mixing it up at Farm Ln. and S. Shaw Ln. shows).  There are some critical roads on campus without bike lanes remaining which abruptly start and stop; they’ll be getting bike lanes, or in some cases, closed to motor vehicle traffic altogether assuming the university’s 20/20 Vision continues to be the guiding document for the coming years.

Read our “Bike Safety Tips” post for a lot more information about this important topic to help greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a crash.

Stay tuned for more progress reports on our ‘Bike Friendliness’.

Winter Cycling Tips & Information

photobucket-3660-1329696094106Cycling in the winter (yes, it’s here!) can be full of challenges and yet also very gratifying if you’re prepared.  Wet and slippery conditions, poor lighting, distracted drivers, and cold temperatures can all make your ride more difficult but they also make your driving more difficult and dangerous as well, right?  You don’t need to put your bike away until spring, however. Read on for tips on how to make winter riding more enjoyable and safer.

If you’re just not interested in riding through the winter, do your bike a big favor and store it indoors where it won’t get all rusted, stolen or vandalized (or accidentally hit by a snow plow).  MSU Surplus offers storage services for bikes (and just about anything else for that matter!).  Click here for more information.  Many residence halls also have indoor bike rooms which are first-come first-serve, so check with your hall’s front desk and see if you can get a key for yours.

Here are some photos of one of our year-round bicyclists, Thomas Baumann, showing off his bike, accessories and related gear.  More tips and information further below.

Tim's winter bike
Tim’s winter bike

Pics of Tim’s latest winter bike, an early ’80s Schwinn Sierra mountain bike, can be seen here.  ’80’s MTBs make perfect winter bikes for many reasons:  they’re quite cheap, they’re made like tanks (that is, to survive brutal treatment and extreme conditions), they have lots of room around the tires to allow for full coverage fenders and studded tires!

Stay Upright, Be Seen and Live

Winter is a hazardous time to be on the roads for everyone, not just bicyclists.  Falling snow, ice on windshields, fogged up windshields, blinding glare,  low lighting etc. will also dramatically affect the ability of motorists to see you.  Drivers may also be distracted by poor road conditions, phones, etc.  Assuming that drivers don’t see you is a good attitude any time of the year no matter whether you ride in the road (with or without bike lanes) or on the sidewalks/ paths.  Here’s a great article w/ more tips for riding safely in snowy conditions (courtesy Bike Arlington).

Be safe, be seen!
Be safe, be seen! Tim wears a safety vest in addition to using lights in case his batteries burn out and for increased visibility from all directions.

So you need to be sure you’re highly visible.  Although lights and bright clothing are recommended year round, they are especially critical during winter months. Use a flashing white light on your handlebar and a flashing red light on your back or seat-post to draw attention to yourself.  Here is a series of articles comparing the brightness and run-time of different headlights and tailights (many of which we stock here; most we can order), and another new article re: updating older taillights with modern LED bulbs (in case you have an older bike using incandescent bulbs). Remember to also ride responsibly and intelligently.  Bicyclists get full legal protection as a vehicle of the road when they’re riding on the road and behaving according to the laws/ rules of the road (e.g., riding your bike through a pedestrian crosswalk is NOT protected).  Assuming that drivers don’t see you is a good attitude any time of the year no matter whether you ride in the road (with or without bike lanes) or on the sidewalks/ paths.  Falling snow, ice on windshields, fogged up windshields, etc. will also dramatically affect the ability of motorists to see you.

Stay Upright with Studded Tires:

Studded tires can be very helpful for keeping you upright on icy roads. They can be expensive however, so handy folks may want to consider making their own. MSU Bikes’ Tim Potter crafted a pair for his own winter commuter:

Notes on DIY studded tires:

Tim's DIY front studded tire
Tim’s DIY front studded tire – click pic for more pics of Tim’s winter bike (2012 version).

I was under the mistaken assumption that as long as I ride in a straight line and make no quick turns that I’ll be OK on ice. Well, recently I crashed on some black ice while going straight ahead. That changed my mind on studded tires immediately. I priced commercially available studded tires and found they were expensive. So, I made some myself in about one-and-a-half hours, and they work great and last longer than I expected despite what is written about non-carbide tipped studs. DIY instructions that I used can be found here.  Note: these instructions only work with tires like the one pictured as you need to have a large knob to screw into, most common on 24″, 26″ or 29’er MTB tires.  So, no, this won’t work for 700c tires as there aren’t any made with such large knobs that I know of.

Here are some top-secret tweaks to those instructions: I screwed #6 x 3/8” sheet metal screws (a box of 100 costs $5 from a good hardware store) from the outside in, just like in the instructions, and then used an old tire carcass (after cutting off the beads — use a smooth tread tire) to line the inside of the tire to cover up the protruding tips to protect the tube (be sure and overlap the tire liner by 1/2″ at least to cover all the sharp points).  While this modification makes the wheels quite a bit heavier, it provides another great benefit: the tires are now effectively “run-flats.” Since there’s so much rubber inside the tire, you can keep riding if you get a flat. If you can find #4 x 1/4” screws, you probably won’t need a liner.

Another option for even better traction consider Kold Kutter ice screws, which motorcycle ice racers have used for years; they come in a small 3/8″ size for only $20 and change through College Bike Shop, Lansing or any good motorcycle shop I’m sure.  Remember: In the winter, you’re not trying to break speed records as much as stay alive!

Bar Mitts keep your hands toasty warm but allow you to use thinner gloves to work your controls better.
Bar Mitts keep your hands toasty warm but allow you to use thinner gloves to work your controls better. 
‘Borealis’ lobster gloves from Planet Bike

Stay Comfortable

It’s cold out there. Winter air stings eyes and turns fingers into meat popsicles. Sloppy road slush tends to end up all over pantlegs and backsides.

Don’t arrive at your destination soaking wet and half frozen. Fenders come in full coverage models and easy to attach clip-on models. Some rear fenders are designed with quick-release attachments that don’t require tools for installation. For your hands, try a pair of “lobster” gloves or mittens.  The three or four fingered design helps retain body heat and keep your digits warm. Many cyclists also find ski or chem-lab goggles helpful in keeping the cold air out of their eyes.

Keep Your Equipment in Working Order

A properly locked U-lock
Keep the opening to the lock mechanism facing down to reduce rusting and freezing of the lock.

Rusted and frozen parts are one of the most common issues we see in the shop during the winter. Moisture inside cable housing can cause freezing and corrosion, which results in poor brake and shift performance. Water in locks can cause them to freeze shut resulting in locks that can’t be opened or keys snapping off.

Tri-flow oil - great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike
Tri-flow oil – great for chains and lubricating many other parts of a bike. Pedros Syn-Lube - excellent for wet,freezing conditions of winterPedros Syn-Lube – excellent for wet,freezing conditions of winter

Pick up a bottle of wet lubricant that’s designed for bicycles. (WD-40 is not a lubricant. Try TriFlow or better yet, Pedro’s Synlube which stays on longer in wet, cold conditions). Chains need to be lubed frequently during wet months. You can also drip the lube down inside cable housing to restore functionality to frozen brake and shift systems.

When locking your bike, point the keyhole of your lock toward the ground to prevent to prevent rust and ice forming inside.  A squirt of chain lube into the lock cylinder will help prevent freezing and result in smoother operation.  If you find your lock frozen use some hot water, coffee or tea and pour it slowly over the lock mechanism to thaw it enough to open it up, then be sure and dry it out with a hair dryer and then lube it to prevent it from freezing or rusting in the future.

Covered Enhanced Security Indoor Bike Parking/ Storage Options

Bike Garage @ Trowbridge Parking Ramp
Bike Garage @ Trowbridge Parking Ramp. Holds up to 23 bikes and features a DIY repair station.

Looking for a place to lock up your bike out of the rain and snow? We’ve now got two enhanced security bike parking facilities on campus called “MSU Bike Garages”; one on the north side of campus (Grand River Parking Ramp) and one on the south side (Trowbridge Parking Ramp).  Click here to learn more about the Bike Garages.  Additionally, covered bike parking options around campus most of them inside our car parking garages. Click here to see them all.

Additionally, many of the residence halls on campus have indoor bike rooms: Holden, Wonders, Wilson, Holmes, McDonel, Akers, Hubbard, Mason/Abbot, Snyder/Phillips, Campbell, Landon, Yakeley/Gilchrist all have bike rooms (as of Nov. 2010). Inquire at your hall reception desk about using the bike rooms.  Note that the rooms use a common key so be sure and lock your bike even in these rooms.

Further Resources

More winter cycling tips and links to other sites can be found on our notes from our winter cycling class in 2010.   If you’d like to receive an email when we announce our classes this winter consider subscribing to our MSU Bikes e-newsletter here.

MSU’s Snow Removal Information

Many in the MSU community will comment on how great the sidewalks, paths and roads are in comparison to other area roads during the storms of winter.  The MSU road crew is out 24/7 to keep campus safe for everyone.  However, if you do see something on campus that needs immediate attention call the 24-hour IPF Dispatch number (517/353-1760) or email the supervisor of the snow crew: snowplan@ipf.msu.edu
If you’d like to learn more about MSU’s official snow removal policies check this page.  Here’s a short video on the topic by IPF.


What winter riding tips do you have to share?  Pls. comment on this blog with your thoughts/ tips/ advice!

(Updated and reposted by Tim Potter, 11/19/14)

New CATA Rep for MSU Campus

Bikes and Buses safety video
Bikes and Buses safety video

As of April 30, 2014 there is a new CATA MSU campus representative, Deb Kirby.

She’s your go-to person for any CATA related issues you observe or experience on campus.  Her email:  dkirby@cata.org  and campus office phone #: (517) 432-0888

FYI: Here’s a link to a very well-done video created by the Chicago ATA that CATA has been using for their driver training.  http://vimeo.com/7949969
It’s also got very helpful advice for bicyclists to safely interact with buses, so take the time and watch it to learn more about staying out of trouble on our roads.

Note:  The painted-on bus #, location, direction of travel and time of day of an incident is critical as the digital bus route numbers change throughout the day.

Nervous about putting your bike on a CATA bus rack?

Using the CATA bus bike racks
Using the CATA bus bike racks

CATA has a great web page describing their bike-related services including using the bike racks on all of their buses.  Watch this (non-CATA) video to see how easy it is!  The racks in the video may be slightly different than CATA’s but it’ll give you a real good idea of how easy it is.

Bike lockers are also available for rent at the CATA Transportation Center (CTC), downtown Lansing, 420 South Grand Ave.  The units are located on the northeast side of the building.

General CATA information:
Customer Service/Fixed-Routes:  517/394-1000
Mon-Fri 7AM to 7PM & Sat-Sun 9AM to 5PM

MSU Lot Link
517.432.8888

Mon-Fri 7PM to 2AM
Sat-Sun 9AM to 2AM

MSU Night Owl

Mon-Fri 2AM to 7AM
Sat-Sun 2AM to 9AM

Web:  http://www.cata.org
Contact info:  http://www.cata.org/Contact/tabid/59/Default.aspx

Bike Safety Tips & Legal Resources

Don't be a Ninja cyclist! Be SEEN and LIVE!
Don’t be a Ninja cyclist! Be SEEN and LIVE! Click image for more info.

The most important thing when it comes to being safe on your bike is avoiding an accident, particularly ones with motor vehicles that can be very serious.  So, we want to first focus your attention on how you can best be seen while riding which is one of the things in your control and easily addressed.

Be Seen with Lights & Bright Clothing

Watch this video to understand why it’s important to stand out from your environment.  Trust me, you DON’T want to be the bear if a car driver doesn’t notice you.  Wear the brightest clothing you can find ALL THE TIME; safety-vests rock if you’d rather not flip for a new jacket.

State of MI bicyclist crash facts for 2012.
“78.9 percent of all bicyclists in motor vehicle crashes and 15 of the 20 bicyclists killed were riding during daylight hours.”  Mich. Traffic Crash Facts for 2012.

We’re also very big on good lighting for your bike, especially if you commute or ride In the road (as you should) around campus. We stock a good selection of strong headlights and rear lights to fit any budget (and can special order better ones).  A tail light is required by Michigan State Law when riding after dark, but if you ask any commuter or experienced bicyclist, they’ll advise you to run with tail and head lights (strobe is best) all day (use rechargeable batteries or the USB rechargeable type lights and you don’t have to worry about the expense of replacing batteries).

Why use lights during the day?  Well, when you ride in and out of dark shadowy areas of the roads you can become almost invisible to a motorist who’s eyes haven’t adjusted to the darkness in that split second which could cost you dearly.  A report published by the Mich. Dept. of Transportation summarizing crash statistics for 2012 are very sobering; “78.9 percent of all bicyclists in motor vehicle crashes and 15 of the 20 bicyclists killed were riding during daylight hours.” A summary of data for 2013 crashes are now available here which again found “peak hours for bicyclist involvement in crashes were from 3:00-5:59 PM”.

Picking a Safe Route

sidewalk-cyclists
Over 90% of all reported bike accidents are the result of sidewalk bicycling on the MSU campus! (courtesy of MSU Photography Services)

Choosing a safe route is probably the most important key to your safety as a cyclist. Our biggest piece of advice: Stay off the sidewalks.  Why? It is against most city ordinances to ride bikes on sidewalks (including the MSU Campus Ordinance) as it’s more dangerous for everyone including the bicyclist.  If you’re going more than 10 mph, even if there are no bike lanes, you have a legal right to ride in the road (just make sure you’re highly visible, ride in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic and follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles).

It seems safer to ride on the sidewalks but cars just don’t check sidewalks for bicyclists when they approach a roadway to make a turn and, on our campus as with most of the cities in the State of Michigan you have NO LEGAL PROTECTION if you do get hit while riding your bike through a cross-walk as a pedestrian as you’re required to be walking your bike to be legally considered a pedestrian.  National statistics as well as our own campus research show that the overwhelming majority of bike-auto accidents occur when the bicyclist is riding on a sidewalk.

Don't be a "Salmon"!
Don’t be a bike “Salmon”! Always ride with the direction of motor vehicle traffic even if you have to ride on the sidewalk.

We’ve noticed an increase in cases of wrong-way bicycling, that is riding against traffic, particularly where there bike lanes.  This is very dangerous for both the wrong-way bicyclist and other bicyclists who have to pass such unpredictable bicyclists (aka “Salmon” after the fish who swim up river) as last minute decisions as to how to pass someone when there are no rules for such behavior can result in collisions, swerves into traffic, etc.

For more convincing graphical presentations and resources read more here courtesy of John Allen’s Bicycle Facilities, Laws and Programs pages.   From that web page:

“…riding on a sidewalk is not necessarily safer and in fact, …the risk is approximately four times that of riding on the roadway with traffic.”

Visualizing sidewalk conflicts
This graphic helps visualize all the possible sidewalk conflicts (click image for more excellent visual examples from Cycling Savvy).

If you’d like to learn more about why it’s safer to ride in the road and exactly WHERE to ride in the road you should review the great animations on this website courtesy of the Cycling Savvy folks at Commute Orlando.  This one in particular shows you where and why you should ride out in the travel lane.  This page of theirs gives a great one-page tutorial on where, how (& why) to ride safely.

Riding Safe Tips

Once you’ve got your basic safety equipment all set (see below for our recommendations), the next major area of keeping safe while you ride is how you ride and react to aggressive or clueless motorists/pedestrians/other cyclists. The Bicycle Safe website lists common types of bike-to-motorist accidents and how to avoid them. The League of Illinois Bicyclists has a video on the topic of riding safely and defensively on the roads.

The Cycling Savvy organization has a wonderful collection of animations demonstrating many safe cycling techniques here and also offer face-to-face classes around the country.

The League of American Bicyclists has published a series of online Ride Smart videos which are also an excellent way to learn online for free.  Their newer Smart Cycling Quick Guide for safe bicycling is also available for viewing online here in both English and Spanish.  The League also offers face-to-face classes throughout the country for more intensive learning.  Their .

If you’re interested in learning more about safe bike riding, consider taking a class from the MSU Bikes Service Center. We occasionally offer classes focused on this topic. Drop us an e-mail and get on our bike classes wait list at bikes@msu.edu.

Helmets

The Bike Helmet: Cheap insurance. Example of the kind of helmets we normally stock.
The Bike Helmet: Cheap insurance.

We highly recommend the use of helmets when riding around campus – or anywhere, for that matter. We had a student wearing a helmet stop by the Service Center who shared one of the simplest summaries we’ve ever heard for why wearing a helmet makes sense:”When people say ‘helmets look stupid,’ I just say ‘Would you rather look stupid or be stupid?

  • If you’re not convinced, perhaps you’d like to read some stories about helmets saving lots of lives? (presented by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute).
  • The MSU Bike Project’s co-founder, Gus Gosselin, has his own story about how his helmet saved his life a few years back, so you don’t have to go far to know it’s worth it.
  • Here’s a great site called “Safety is Sexy” to help people see helmets as sexy (yes, sexy); has a ton of great materials, photos, videos, etc. promoting bike helmets and other bike safety issues.
  • There was a British study published back in 2006 that concluded wearing a helmet and dressing like an experienced bicyclist resulted in motorists passing closer than if you wore no helmet and especially if you appeared to be female.  There has been a lot more research published since then including some excellent lampooning of that British study; see a summary of all that here.  The summary is published by the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.

Eye Protection

Protecting your eyes is highly recommended while you’re riding.  Use tinted during the day and clear for riding after hours or in low-light conditions. Prices range from bargain basement on up.

MSU Bike Safety Video

Check out this bike safety video that a group of MSU Communications Arts students (directed by Katelyn Patterson, they were all volunteers on this project) created for AOP bike tours done in previous years.  Using a bit of slap-stick humor hopefully makes the sometimes boring subject more entertaining.

Fenders

Using fenders will keep your tires from picking up road debris and throwing it in your eyes. Most people associate fenders with keeping water and mud off yourself, but overlook the protection they provide your eyes. We stock a good supply and variety of them.

Bells and Horns

Airzound air horn for bikes
The Airzound – a very loud horn that can be reinflated with any air pump.

Yes, we’re all about bells and horns, too. How many pedestrians, cyclists, motorists are busy talking on their cell phones or listening to their iPods or other radios? Get yourself a nice little bell for letting peds know you’re about to pass them and then consider something stronger like the AirZound Bike Horn for getting yourself noticed by motorists in no uncertain terms. We stock a good selection of bells and horns, including the AirZound.

Michigan Law, Legal assistance and case studies

The League of Michigan Bicyclists has published a very nice summary of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code which pertains to bicycling here.  They’ve also  published a number of legal columns by two Michigan attorneys (Sarah W. Colegrove and Todd E. Briggs) who specialize in litigating bicycling-related cases. You can read those past columns and get their contact information here.

What to do when hit by a car

We have many bicyclists come into our shop having just had an accident and way too often they report not having reported the incident and telling the driver they’re OK and not getting names or anything only later to find out that they’re injured or that their bike is damaged beyond repair.  Don’t let this happen to you.

The following list is excerpted from an LMB legal column in the site referenced above.

  • Don’t admit liability by stating the accident was your fault.
  • Call the police (911 if there are serious injuries) and make a report.  (The MSU Police non-emergency number is 517-355-2222 for non life-threatening injury accidents).
  • Get driver’s contact and insurance information.
  • Get witnesses’ statements and contact information.
  • Get the officer’s precinct number and contact information.
  • Seek immediate medical treatment for injuries.
  • Report incident to your auto insurance company.
  • Report incident to your homeowners/renters insurance company.
  • Take photos of crash scene, injuries and bicycle.
  • Request copy of police report.
  • Keep folder of all crash information (notes, receipts, log, insurance information, etc.)
  • Contact an attorney to advise you of your rights.

MSU’s commitment to improving traffic safety

In 1995, MSU’s administration made the decision to make improvements to campus roads to improve traffic safety. This has resulted in a drop in automobile-related accidents that result in injuries to approximately 90 percent fewer accidents as of the 2008 accident report. As a result, not only have hundreds of potential accidents been avoided, but MSU was awarded an Outstanding Contributions to Traffic Safety Award from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission in 2006. Click here to read the award announcement.

A new campus policy calling for their construction/ addition to all new road projects was also adopted at the same time to improve bicycling safety and reduce accidents with automobiles and pedestrians. MSU is approximately 60 percent done with installing bike lanes on all campus (MSU-controlled) roads as of the end of the 2012 construction season.

The All University Traffic and Transportation Committee  advises MSU’s Chief of Police on traffic and transportation safety issues and serves as a way for the campus community to have input to the administration regarding related issues or concerns to include parking of all vehicles (motorized and non-motorized). Their Comment form is a great way to report problems or concerns on campus and now features a new mapping tool w/ the ability to upload photos w/ your submission.

Questions or suggestions for more safety information?

We’d love to add more to this page.   Have a story or a tip you’d like to share?  Comment below or contact Tim Potter at pottert@msu.edu